Highlanders vs. Blues

  • Luatua, Gibson, SBW back for Blues

    The Blues are set to welcome back three key players for the clash against the Highlanders in Dunedin on Saturday.

    The match, which kicks off at 7:35pm at Forsyth Barr, will feature the long-awaited return of Sonny Bill Williams, who will make his debut for the Blues from the bench after rupturing his Achilles at the Rio Olympics in August.

    All Black Steven Luatua will also return to the side after suspension, which allows coach Tana Umaga to rest Jimmy Tupou who has carried a significant workload in the opening six games.

    Outstanding young flanker Blake Gibson is also back to full fitness to resume his openside loose forward role, while 21-year-old All Black Rieko Ioane earns a recall to the starting line-up after an outstanding contribution off the bench in the win over the Western Force last weekend.

    “We have missed Steven’s undoubted skills and it also allows Jerome (Kaino) to return to his role at No 6 where he is regarded as the best in the world,” Umaga said. “Rieko is an extraordinary talent and showed his class off the bench to earn his spot back in the starting line-up.”

    Auckland lock Scott Scrafton gets his first start at lock to add to the Blues line-up resources after an impressive effort as a replacement last weekend, with Patrick Tuipulotu to come off the bench.

    He’s joined on the bench by All Black Ofa Tu’ungafasi, along with Maori All Blacks Billy Guyton and Akira Ioane.

    Also coming on to the bench is North Harbour’s Bryn Gatland, who trained with the Blues pre-season and comes off a stint with the Crusaders, filling in for the injured first fives Ihaia West and Stephen Perofeta.

    The team is:

    1 Pauliasi Manu, 2 James Parsons (C), 3 Charlie Faumuina, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 5 Scott Scrafton, 6 Jerome Kaino, 7 Blake Gibson, 8 Steven Luatua; 9 Augustine Pulu, 10 Piers Francis, 11 Melani Nanai, 12 George Moala, 13. Rieko Ioane, 14 Matt Duffie, 15 Michael Collins.

    Replacements: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Billy Guyton, 22 Bryn Gatland, 23 Sonny Bill Williams.

    Unavailable due to injury: Sam Nock (shoulder), Rene Ranger (ankle), Stephen Perofeta (ankle), Alex Hodgman (calf), Branden Nansen (wrist/hand), Ihaia West (ankle), Declan O’Donnell (concussion).

  • Of course excellent to see SBW there and Luatua and Gibson return. Not sure Tuipulotu should be off the bench - that sort of tactic hasnt paid off for Tana always in the past.

    A very important game for both teams in terms of playoffs. Should be great under the roof.

  • which allows coach Tana Umaga to rest Jimmy Tupou who has carried a significant workload in the opening six games.

    I think he should rest for a few months

  • A good chance for Scrafton to force his way ahead of a few others. Hopefully we settle on a pairing of him and Tuipulotu soon.

    Parsons needs to regain his form or Moulds will over take him soon. He hasn't come back from his long concussion break well

  • Pretty hyped for Scrafton's start.

  • Does anyone know for how long Moala is still signed with the Blues? All I can find is info about him re-signing (in October 2014) for the 2015 & 2016 seasons, but nothing about the next re-signing. I'm asking because with the arrival of SBW at the Blues, his starting days may be over soon (if SBW performs well and stays healthy), unless they move him to the left wing and Nanai to fullback at the expense of Collins. So I'm wondering for how many seasons he has re-signed in 2016.

  • That's only a hooker away from a sick team.

  • Strong looking backline.
    Even better when SBW starts and Moala comes off the bench .

  • Highlanders: Ben Smith (c), Tevita Li, Malakai Fekitoa, Richard Buckman, Patrick Osborne, Marty Banks, Aaron Smith, Luke Whitelock, Dillon Hunt, Elliot Dixon, Tom Franklin, Alex Ainley, Siosuia Halanukonuka, Liam Coltman, Daniel Lienert-Brown.

    Reserves: Greg Pleasants-Tate, Aki Seiuli, Siate Tokolahi, Joe Wheeler, Liam Squire, Kayne Hammington, Fletcher Smith, Matt Faddes.

  • I'm looking forward to this game, with plenty of important match-ups looking ahead to AB selection.

    Can the Blues finally beat a NZ team away from home?

  • @Bovidae Man-for-man, on paper, they should do - but, I will have no money riding on them. 🙂

  • I know I've made this error before, but man for man I think the Blues have this, despite the returning players for the Clan.

  • Tuipulotu ruled out of the game; Tupou takes his place on the bench.

  • Fug. What was the reason?

  • @Stargazer

    Ouch. Tuipolotou a big loss. Short on ball carriers iin the forwards now I reckon

  • @Tim They (the commentators) didn't say why.

  • I like this backline for the Landers. Good combinations with complimentary skills. I'd actually have it ahead of the Blues one, but I do like the Blues forward pack if PT was starting.

  • How good is Duffie in the air?
    3 standout takes in less than 4 minutes.

  • Commentators about Pulu: "He's been great all season". Seriously?

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